Friday, November 21, 2008

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) = Cognitive Dissonance on Auto-pilot

From the Rachel Maddow Show, November 20, 2008
(Starting at 6:1o minutes) 

Rachel Maddow:  Nobody wants the car makers to fail, but is giving them $25 billion just staving off the inevitable? 

Sen Stabenow: Well, I believe, first of all, that we can't allow them to fail because part of our energy future are those hybrid plug-in vehicles that will frankly get us off foreign oil much faster than drilling and when we look to the future in terms of manufacturing whether it's defense, whether it's aerospace, whether it's a multitude of other industries, autos are an incredibly important part of that and, you know, one out of ten people right now work directly or indirectly for the auto industry, so this is about American jobs and I really think it's about the backbone of the middle class.  So, do I think that everything will be fine after a $25 billion loan?  No, I think there are some tough times ahead, but we've got to help them get through a credit crunch that is facing the world.  Canada's helping their auto makers, Europe is helping their auto makers because of the credit crunch.  We need to get them with a bridge loan, and as the author of the re-tooling loans to green the auto industry, I'm very focused on ensuring that we move to the green technologies.  The great news is that the incoming president is also interested and very committed to doing that.  So I believe that that is going to happen.

Where do I start?

1. If plug-in hybrid technology is valuable, then surely that technology will survive whether or not GM, Ford and Chrysler survive.  If they all file Chapter 11, the patents would be assets with salable value.  To hold the salvation of all green technology as a reason to dump money into a failed company is pure silliness.  As far as "We can't let them fail...", save the drama Senator; they've already failed.

2. The defense and aerospace industries-- and the implication is that our national security-- is dependent on GM, Ford and Chrysler?  Sorry, Senator, I'm not buying into the fear-based BS from the left just as I never bought into the same BS from the militarist right.  US fighter pilots can drive Honda Civics to their airbases when it comes time to launch WW3.

3. Ah yes, the "one in ten jobs" meme.  These jobs must include travel agents and cab drivers and the guy who re-stocks the hot dog cooker at my local Speedway as part of "the auto industry", because the UAW only claims membership of 465,000  and even with all the suppliers and ancillary workers, it's hard to get anything close to even a fraction of 10% of the US work force.  This same stupidity about the "one-in-ten" is repeated by Republicans as well, and the stupid still burns my ears regardless of the source.  But even assuming so many workers are directly related to the auto industry, with the Big 3 gone the remaining car manufacturers will still need employees and parts suppliers.

4.  Canada and Europe are helping their auto industry.  Well, actually they are debating the same question that we are, but Canada has no domestic car maker and no UAW holding a gun to their head.  Europe's car makers are not nearly in the financial straits as our Big 3, but frankly I completely resent the bold-faced lie the Senator Stabenow throws out that implies the US is the only government that is not on board with a bail-out.

I realize that much of this debate centers around the labor costs associated with UAW plants and that while Honda and Toyota are struggling in the US, their cost of doing business is manageable mainly because they have less pension and health care burden due their employees and retirees.  I would argue that Hillarycare in 1993, or a reasonable facsimile, would have put all US industries on a more equal footing in regard to health care, but that's a moot point now.  I remember distinctly the debate back then about the costs of such a comprehensive plan... well, now we are bearing more of the cost of not having such a national health care plan.  Michigan recently lost a bid for a Toyota engine plant to Canada and one of of the main reasons cited was the Canadian national health insurance which obviated the need for Toyota to provide such insurance.

I'm not going to beat up the UAW too much here.  Labor unions have been at the forefront of getting reasonable working conditions and benefits for workers over the last couple hundred years.  Much of the advancement in working conditions is due directly to unions' influence.  The labor market has been screaming for comprehensive national health care for at least 20 years, and now we are seeing the damage that is done to our nation's industries because of the lack of such necessary care.  The UAW's raison d'etre would have been rendered pointless if we would have made health care a priority a generation ago.

As Rick Santelli has said on numerous occasions, a recession is an enema for a bad economy.  We need to flush out the poorly capitalized and mismanaged companies and allow the better run companies to take over market share.  Sure it hurts, but the pain now is much worse than the pain of having crappy companies on the public dole for another generation.  

My recommendation:  Take the $25 billion marked for the auto bailout and put it toward a down payment on a national health insurance plan for all workers.  Let GM sell it's plug-in hybrid technology to some other company that will make it work.  Chapter 11 and flush the toilet.

Maddow's interview with the Senator had both agreeing that anybody not willing to bailout the auto makers are only the "extremes" from the right and left.

Well, color me-- and most of the nation--  extreme.

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